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"For the most part it's a really prissy sort of poncy job. It's got nothing to do with why you wanted to do it when you were 14 or something - when I wanted to be a spy or an assassin or something."  -Noah Taylor on acting
 The World of Film in Australia - on the Internet Updated Tuesday September 15, 2020 

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Your editor Andrew L. Urban was on hand last week when Australian movie distributors and exhibitors gathered on the Gold Coast for their 57th annual Movie Convention to preview movies in the pipeline for the rest of 2002 and beyond – everything from the 20th James Bond film to the second Lord of the Rings, and the very first Tadpole … plus a slate of new Australian films.

Stand by for a blitz of blockbusters (like The Lord of the Rings: The Two Towers), a throng of thrillers (like The Bourne Identity), a clutch of comedies (like The Nugget) amidst the deluge of dramas (like The Quiet American) and an armful of action films (like XXX) as the filmbiz unloads a truckful of movies into the tail end of 2002 and beyond. There’s even a new musical (Chicago, from an old stage musical) and a pack of top arthouse movies (like The Cat’s Meow), and quite a few foreign films (like Nine Queens).

And of course, James Bond’s 20th adventure. Surely this is the one successful movie series that can still wink at its audience as if to say ‘We’re kidding…this is all just for fun’ and still cram genuine thrills into its package.

Distributors last week reeled off close to 200 trailers and seven full length features for the country’s cinema operators large and small, in a frenzy of movie titles in all genres and categories. Among the trailers and scene clips were a few making their world debuts, including a memorable teaser for The Texas Chainsaw Massacre and the first rough cut of 10 minutes from The Kelly Gang, from director Gregor Jordan and starring Heath Ledger as Ned, which wrapped three weeks ago and is now in post production. There was also a chilling clip from Red Dragon, the precursor story to The Silence of the Lambs; in this case, Dr Hannibal Lecter takes second place in the evil stakes to the title character, played by Ralph Fiennes – and looking chilling.

Personal appearances at the Convention included a hilarious Steve Irwin (Crocodile Hunter) and writer/comedian/actor Mick Molloy (Crackerjack), sportsman Pat Rafter (to thank the industry for their support of his Cherish the Children Foundation), and international distribution executives. Taped messages were played from Peter Jackson and Morgan Freeman, among others, and live performances ranged from dancers to pop singer Grace. We reported last week on the Star of the Year Award presentation, where Vince Colosimo received this year’s award, in the presence of over 30 Australian filmmakers and stars representing the films below:

With the backing of the Australian Film Commission, the 2002 Movie Convention also highlighted upcoming Australian films with a spectacular showcase evening to kick off Convention. The showcase evening followed the afternoon screening of Australian filmmaker John Polson’s excellent American feature debut, Swimfan, which opens at the end of October. (Andrew L. Urban’s interview with John will be published closer to Swimfan’s release.) 

A selection of new Australian films coming soon:
Part-autobiographical fantasy about a mother-daughter relationship in which the once flamboyant, now dead mum continues to invade her daughter’s life. Debut feature from Rebel Penfold-Russell, stars Anna Lise Phillips, C. Thomas Howell, Anne Looby, Charles ‘Bud’ Tingwell, John Gaden, Jennifer Clare. It’s a fun premise relating to the sensitive theme of death, and the balance between tragedy and comedy is a carefully considered fine line, says Louise.

Beware of Greeks Bearing Guns
A comic vendetta drama by John Tatoulis spanning almost 60 years and two continents, starring Greek comedy star Lakis Lazopoulos, with Zoe Carides, John Bluthal, Tasso Kavadia, Nonni Ioannidou, Tassos Palatzidis, Ron Haddrick, Claudia Buttazzoni. A more unlikely hit man you'll be hard pressed to meet in Beware of Greeks Bearing Guns, a delightful story of mistaken identity, cultural cringe and belonging. There's enough Greek flavour here to make you yearn for a nip of Ouzo, says Louise.

Walking on Water
Tony Ayres’ award winning (Berlin film fest 2002) feature debut about a household of long time friends and friends tossed into a world of grief, where jealousy, betrayal and desire override more polite reactions to death. Stars Vince Colosimo, Maria Theodorakis, Judi Farr, Nicholas Bishop, Anna Lise Phillips. The film provides all the satisfaction of a well crafted ensemble piece that takes us from grief and drama to humour and understanding, says Andrew.

The Nugget
Comic fable from Bill Bennett about working class mates discovering the world’s biggest gold nugget and how it affects their finances and their friendships, starring Eric Bana, Stephen Curry, Dave O'Neil, Belinda Emmett, Peter Moon, Vince Colosimo, Max Cullen. The Nugget is replete with the kind of pragmatic humour unique to Australians, and we are all in on the joke. Back on home turf after Black Hawk Down and in the comedy saddle again, Eric Bana is wonderful, says Louise.

Garage Days
A garage band with ambitions pins its hopes on a high profile manager, with unspectacular results. Written and directed with flair by Alex Proyas; stars Kick Gurry, Pia Miranda, Chris Sadrinna, Brett Stiller, Maya Stange, Russell Dykstra, Andy Anderson, Yvette Duncan, Marton Csokas. Visually stimulating, Garage Days is about a garage band’s rise through vague hopes and crazy coincidences to commercial oblivion, while studying its internal nuclear fusion as its members collide and connive, says Andrew.

From the writers/directors of Russian Doll, Allanah Zitserman and Stavros Kazantzidis, a romantic comedy about a wannabe horse trainer. Includes scenes shot at an actual Melbourne Cup. Stars Marcus Graham, Jason Donovan, Tushka Bergen, Natalie Mendoza, Abbie Cornish, Amanda Douge, Craig Beamer, Bill Hunter, Robert Menzies. Unreviewed: teaser clip shown. 

Thousands of kids head for the Gold Coast for schoolies week at end of high school: here’s what some of them get up to – and that’s just getting there! Written by Stephen Davis, Kier Shorey, directed by Evan Clarry and starring Matthew Newton, Craig Horner, Kristian Schmid, Veronica Sywak, Mark Priestly, Travis Cotton, Petra Yared, Charlotte Rees, Nathalie Roy. With its vibrant and funky soundtrack and bright, vigorous young ensemble cast, Blurred is a fun frolic, when reality is put on hold for one week of excess. Targeted at the youth market, it looks as though everyone had a ball making the film, says Louise.

The Quiet American
Phil Noyce directed this new adaptation of Graham Greene’s classic novel set in colonial Vietnam in the 50s, in which an older Brit vies for the affections of a Vietnamese beauty against a young American. (You can work out the metaphor.) Love, betrayal, murder and the prophecy of the US war in Vietnam….Script adapted by Christopher Hampton, stars Michael Caine, Brendan Fraser, Hai Yen Do, Rade Serbedzija, Tai Yen Do, Quang Hai. Unreviewed: teaser clips shown

Black and White
Based on real events in the late 50s in South Australia: when a 9 year old girl is found raped and murdered in a, police arrest Max Stuart, an Aborigine who claims to be innocent but signs a confession under duress. The extended and explosive court case triggers change in Australian society. Written by Louis Nowra, directed by Craig Lahiff, stars Robert Carlyle, Charles Dance, Kerry Fox, Colin Friels, Ben Mendelsohn, David Ngoombujarra. It’s one helluva great yarn for starters, and the sort of film Australia should be making. It slices open the social (black) heart of this society merely 50 years ago, to reveal it as not only racist and sexist but class-driven to boot, says Andrew.

Debut feature for co-writers Mick and Richard Molloy, directed by Paul Moloney, about a city bowling club whose members try and save their beloved club from bankruptcy and the hungry gaze of local business interests. Stars Mick Molloy, Bill Hunter, Frank Wilson, Monica Maughan, Lois Ramsay, Judith Lucy, Samuel Johnson, John Clarke. A thoroughly entertaining comedy with an unlikely setting but the cleverly, observant writing and simple but effective direction makes it a real crowd pleaser, says Andrew.

The Bourne Identity
– Stars Matt Damon, Franka Potente, Chris Cooper. A solidly crafted spy thriller with a superb cast, wonderful locations, taut script, sleek action and a haunting mood.

Insomnia - Stars Al Pacino, Hilary Swank, Robin Williams. Insomnia the film is as satisfying as insomnia the condition isn’t; even jaded film palates will love this sophisticated, well made and edgy psychological thriller.

Murder By Numbers – Stars Sandra Bullock, Ryan Gosling, Michael Pitt, Ben Chaplin. When you daren’t go the toilet during the movie in case you miss something, you know you’re watching something gripping. Murder By Numbers almost cost me an accident – and that’s to its credit. The well honed script relies on the characters to make familiar territory fascinating.

XXX - Stars Vin Diesel, Samuel L. Jackson, Asia Argento. A new action hero is launched in this spectacular, action-packed and spectacle-driven thrill-ride. Everything the film promises it delivers. And Diesel is a star.

Road to Perdition - Stars Tom Hanks, Paul Newman, Jude Law, Tyler Hoechlin, Daniel Craig and Jennifer Jason Leigh. Superb cinema with outstanding performances. But do you buy Tom Hanks as a gangster?

The Banger Sisters
– Stars Goldie Hawn, Susan Sarandon, Geoffrey Rush. A wonderfully observed, freshly inventive human drama told as a grown up comedy with some uproarious moments and outstanding performances. A tad schmalzy at the end, though.

Swimfan – Stars Jesse Bradford, Erika Christensen.
Aussie John Polson’s impressive Hollywood debut is a compelling thriller aimed at a youth market – but appealing to a wider audience. Michael Douglas is executive producer – the man who starred in Fatal Attraction, a film with a similar theme, but slightly older protagonists. 

The Guru – Stars Marisa Tomei, Heather Graham, Jimi Mistry. Wacky romantic comedy in which Mistry plays a young Indian seeking fame and fortune in America and becomes an accidental celebrity sex guru. It plays very funny for most of the time and manages to make its single joke storyline work. Again, schmalz alert, near the end.

UNREVIEWED – but the clips look good:
Lord of the Rings: The Two Towers – Stars Elijah Wood, Sean Astin, Dominic Monaghan, Cate Blanchett, Viggo Mortensen, John Rhys-Davies, Liv Tyler, Christopher Lee, Brad Dourif, Miranda Otto, Karl Urban (no relation to this writer.) [Hi there Karl.]

Die Another Day: Bond 20 – Stars Pierce Brosnan, Halle Berry, Rosamund Pike, Rick Yune, Judi Dench, John Cleese, Samantha Bond, and directed by New Zealander, Lee Tamahori. Edgy! 

Harry Potter 2 – Harry Potter 1 team. Same magic, too.

Changing Lanes – Stars Morgan Freeman, Ben Affleck. Strong drama, clips suggest high tension, top performances.

Chicago: The Musical – Renee Zellweger, Catherine Zeta-Jones, Richard Gere, Queen Latifah, John C. Reilly, Chrsitine Baranski, Taye Diggs, Dominic West, Lucy Liu. Sexy, stylish …And all that jazz

Tadpole – Stars Sigourney Weaver, Aaaron Stanford, John Ritter, Bebe Neuwirth.

Spy Kids 2 – Stars Antonio Banderas, Carla Gugino, Alex Vega, Daryl Sabara, Dale Dudley. 

Finding Nimo – Disney animation, comedy adventure; voices of Eric Bana, Bruce Spence, Barry Humphries among others, set around the Great Barrier Reef and Sydney. This is a 2003 release and promises to be a hit.

Other trailers/clips that are memorable: Australian newcomer Anthony Mirr’s You Can’t Stop the Murders, Frida, Confessions of a Dangerous Mind, Hope Springs, Moonlight Mile, Ghost Ship, The Matrix Reloaded, X-Men 2, Kissing Jessica Stein, Johnny English, Clockstoppers, 8 Mile and the crazy Undercover Brother. In April 2003, Chow Yun Fat (Crouching Tiger, Hidden Dragon) returns in The Bulletproof Monk – but one of my most anticipated movies for 2003 so far (no trailer yet), is the adaptation of Andre Dubus’ terrific novel, House of Sand and Fog, which stars Ben Kingsley and Jennifer Connelly.

ARTHOUSE FILMS – a selection
The Cat’s Meow – Stars Kirtsen Dunst, Eddie Izzard, Edward Herrman, Cary Elwes, Joanna Lumley, Jennifer Tilly, Claudia Harrison, Ronan Vibert, Victor Slezak. Juicy by any standards, this tale of sex, celebrity, money and motives is irresistibly decadent and cinematically delicious. The ingredients include man’s most capricious and base aspects, as well as genuine love. The trick is to make the film not merely titillating but meaningful, and Peter Bogdanovich does just that, says Andrew.

Heaven – Stars Cate Blanchett, Giovanni Ribisi. Blanchett gives yet another marvellous performance, and Ribisi is haunting as the quiet, subdued prison guard who finally finds his calling… Heaven takes us on a delicate emotional journey of the heart. The destination may be left high in the air, but it’s a satisfying and memorable excursion that leaves us breathless, says Louise.

8 Women – Stars Catherine Deneuve, Fanny Ardent, and six more, in a most unusual murder mystery musical set inside a snowbound house at Christmas, delivered in deadpan but high camp style, says Andrew.

Others not reviewed yet but clips look promising:
Mostly Martha, Intacto, Uprising, Safety of Objects, The Experiment and Yiyi.

Published August 22, 2002

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Lord of the Rings: The Two Towers - releases December 26

Banger Sisters - releases November 21

Beware of Greeks Bearing Guns - releases September 12

The Bourne Identity - releases September 26

The Quiet American - releases November 21

Chicago: The Musical - releases January 23

Die Another Day - December 12

The Cat's Meow - releases September 19

XXX - releases September 12

Please note, release dates are correct at time of publication but are subject to change.

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